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Calhoun, Sonoco hold graduation ceremony for first apprenticeship graduates

TANNER — In a showing of public education and private industry, Calhoun Community College and Sonoco recently held their first graduation ceremony at Sonoco’s Tiger Launch training facility in Hartselle.

Bryan Lee Garber, Tyler Thomas Cartee, and Thomas Lamar Prus are the first three graduates from the newly created Industrial Maintenance Mechanic Apprenticeship Program. Similar programs are planned to develop operations management leaders.

“Over the past several years, we have made significant investments in establishing programs to support the growth and development of our employees through collaboration with our local high schools, community colleges, as well as the AOA (Alabama Office of Apprenticeship),” said Brian Kilpatrick, Sonoco director of operations. “This AOA maintenance apprenticeship and pre-apprentice program is a perfect example of how a company ‘builds its own talent’ with the support of local primary, secondary school systems and financial support from the state.”

The initiative for the program began when officials from Calhoun, Sonoco, Cerro Wire, Hartselle City Schools, and the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship met to discuss workforce development. They wanted to enhance the existing Tiger Launch high school co-op program by creating pre-apprentice opportunities for the students.

After three years of navigating through the pandemic, the AOA maintenance apprenticeship was established to help set the stage for Sonoco to sponsor the pre-apprentice program. Sonoco is a manufacturer of packaging products with operations in Hartselle.

According to Kelli Morris, Calhoun director of Career Services, the college became a registered apprenticeship sponsor in December 2020 through the AOA, making the technical training apprenticeship with Sonoco as a sponsor, a first.

“Many employers have apprenticeship programs with the college and can recruit, train, and retain highly skilled workers for their company,” said Morris. “Not only are our students able to combine paid-on-the-job learning through our apprenticeship programs, but they are also placing themselves in positions to find a career in which they can grow.”

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